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Anamanaguchi Grows Up without Growing Old

Last updated on January 6, 2022

Anamanaguchi‘s latest hyperactive blitz of chiptune, punk rock, pop songs, and dance music manages to satisfy my cravings for old-school Guchi pep and interest in bands developing their sounds. “On My Own” is about as Anamana as it gets, with punk rock tempos and affectations (including a hardcore-style half-time breakdown!), cheery 8bit melodies, and a pop female vocalist bringing it all home. It’s about as maximum a tribute to JPop as four dudes who went to east coast design schools can offer. Follow-up track “Up to You” amps up the pop aspects and includes a feathery vocal approach that’s half JPop/KPop and half … uh … Owl City. It works though, I promise. “Air On Line” is a standard Guchi instrumental jam, and it rips in all the ways you would expect. If you’re here for more of what Guchi has given you in the past, Anamanaguchi delivers.

Yet they’ve also grown in their approach. The album is named [USA], which implies a much different theme than Endless Fantasy. The opener is a deliberate, expansive introduction that ends with distorted male vocals chanting U-S-A! U-S-A! That’s different. The title track follows, and it is a dense, complex, almost post-rock affair, with the quartet turning their usual adrenalized approach inside out. They introduce vocorder vocals, which continue in the similarly thoughtful and careful “Lorem Ipsum (Arctic Anthem).” They introduce back their signature 8bit sounds into this one with aplomb, making a fusion between their more pensive take and their LET’S-GOOOOO normal state. (There’s plenty of chiptune enthusiasm in the center of “Lorem Ipsum,” don’t worry.)

While the album is provocatively called [USA], the band does not dramatically foreground the theme. If you think hard and deeply about the nature of the individual songs, the work’s structure, and the often-partially-obscured lyrics, you can start to draw conclusions. But you don’t have to. You can just take this at sonic face value as a fascinating, excellent album that walks the tightest of tightropes: making more of what you’re known for while still stretching the wings and expanding sonically. Anamanaguchi handles the task deftly, and that makes the album a huge success. Highly recommended. —Stephen Carradini